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leccabaffi - strange name, strange service

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my favorite part of my annual trip to Rome is the last night, when my best friend and I go to a bustling restaurant around the corner from the Vatican, and have the most amazing Italian meal you can imagine. You simply tell the waiter "yes" and rather than a menu, they will simply begin bringing out dishes until you say "uncle".

The food is so far from what we as Americans perceive as Italian food... a dozen small plates of vegetables and fish in olive oil, pasta with real ragu, bones and all, fish that tastes unlike anything you can imagine, and lots and lots and lots, of red wine.

Saturday night, my friends suggested we try Leccabaffi. They used to go often, but stopped for whatever reason, but thought I'd like it. From the moment I walked in and saw the marinated vegetables that they informed me made up the first course, I thought I would.

The menu is authentically italian, and I had a really hard time deciding on what to order. At our table for appetizers, we ended up with the carpaccio, the vegetables, and minestrone soup, which was out of this world. The carpaccio was perfectly simple, the greens were delicious, and the vegetables did not disappoint.

For dinner, after much hemming and hawing, we got the john dory, a daily special, tuna, another special, the papardelle with wild boar sauce and a side of the gnocci in pesto gorgonzola and a side of the tripe.

In between, i should mention the bread, which was just fine. Good, but nothing to turn cartwheels over, and the lovely accordionist, who after an hour begins to grate a little... when you start to play "hello dolly" and the theme from the young and the restless... well.

It should also be noted that our wine choices were delicious. I went with the Chianti, in the spirit of things, which i found really buttery for a chianti.

Dinner arrived, sans the sides, but that was ok. On the fish, we were both underwhelmed. The tuna, though good, wasn't anything particularly spectacular or interesting in taste. the john dory was just tasteless, although a good piece of fish. Worth noting, as we all did, was how much care was given the side vegetables on our plates. Even in the best places, they gloss over the veggie treatment, but the potatoes were excellent as was the veggie something that accompanied it, including broccoli and squashes.

But the standout was the papardelle with wild boar sauce. Like a light ragu, the pasta was bite perfect and the sauce was just amazing.

After some prompting, they delivered our sides. None of us could make a solid enough choice not to atleast try what we were giving up. The gnocci were just incredible. We were quite happy that we'd only gotten a side as one could only eat 5-6 of them, but they were absolutely perfect.

While I won't dive into the tripe, our tripe afficionado claimed it was by far the best he'd ever had.

So far, we'd been eating a few bites of everything so we could sample the most. So we ordered some coffee and perused the dessert menu, and ended up getting the cheese and honey and the tiramisu to split amongst us.

The cheese was absolutely perfect, and i'd get it again in a second. The tiramisu was also wonderful, but I've had good tiramisu before.

We left, drastically poorer than we were when we arrived.

On the service, and worth noting, it was bad enough we wouldn't go back, and we were not the only people there who felt so. We watched the table next to us wait for a check long enough that they became irate (but you know, Scottsdale irate, so they just puffed and gave long stares and the waiters for 20 minutes trying to get their attention). We had a similar problem, and had to ask for our drinks and sides and the check repeatedly before it arrived. We were there about 2 hours, which we didn't mind since we were having a good time, but we could have easily been out in an hour.

So.. food... worth it if you choose judiciously. Pastas, good appetizers, etc. Service: not worth it.

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